That Interview Stank

Written by Carrie Callaghan

Carrie owns Love Monday, a socially responsible recruitment agency in Auckland. As well as being Regional Editor for ANZ at #ChatTalent, she loves her F-Bombs as much as her truth bombs and will rarely say no to a beer.




1. information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

The recruitment process is a funny thing. We spend time trying to attract the right people for our jobs, wooing those unicorns and selling them the dream – raving to clients about these purple squirrels that we found.

We line up those interviews and get high on delivering the good news. So many results! And who doesn’t love results?

I’ll tell you who doesn’t love them.

The people who miss out on a job and never find out why.


Feedback vs Decision


A few weeks ago, I presented some candidates for a role. The client met them – and something happened which never had before. The guy had been called in for the meeting same day. I don’t know what the process was between him agreeing and his arriving at the client’s office, but whatever it was didn’t seem to include having a shower.

Although it certainly wasn’t the reason he didn’t get the role, the client made me aware that the candidate had poor personal hygiene on the day. It is Summer in NZ and so maybe it was a hectic journey in or nerves, I dunno but the whole office noticed it and it definitely caused awkwardness.

What was more awkward was me telling him that on the call where I delivered the decision.

I’ve had several difficult discussions as a recruiter – it’s par for the course. But this one was probably up there as one of the worst, and I was questioning whether it really needed to be said.

In my head I played out the image of this candidate attending interviews in future, blissfully unaware of the body odour thing. I thought about his friends and family and wondered how often it occurred. What about his colleagues now? Is that something they speak about when he’s not around? Argh.

Every version of the message sounded awful in my head, but I took a deep breath and hit dial.

After asking him his thoughts and hearing how positively he felt it all went, it got even harder to find a place to jackknife this into the conversation. So, I started with the facts – his knowledge wasn’t broad enough for the client’s needs. I then elaborated on the specific info my client had given me on that and advised where he went wrong with his other responses. The guy took it all well.

He was a real sweetheart to deal with and didn’t sound phased. But then?



Rip off the Band-Aid 


Oh God, I was bottling it. I’d just heard him tell me how well he thought it went, and then told him everything he’d perceived was wrong. Did I really need to go down this road??

“The guys also offered me some other feedback. It is of a more personal nature… would you like to hear it or are you happy with the information given?”

“Yeah absolutely, go on…”


“Ok, so this was not a reason you didn’t see progression to next stages, but I feel it’s important that you are made aware for the sake of future interviews.”

By this point I probably needed a shower myself.

“Now, of course you had a fairly short time between agreeing to the meeting and the interview happening, and I know it’s boiling outside and you were also probably a bit anxious about it all…but I guess what I’m getting at is that they weren’t sure if you’d perhaps had time to grab a shower before you came in to see them.”

“Ah…. ok, I see, yep sure. That’s fair enough. Thanks very much for all the feedback, I’ll definitely take it on board. Thanks so much for letting me know.”

Done. It wasn’t fun, but it was important that he knew and now it’s up to him how he moves forward with it.


“We’re in recruitment, we’re ‘people people’!”


We conduct so many interviews to find our shortlists, we then decline anywhere between one and five people after that (far more in volume recruitment) and we have SO much to say about how they did.

They were late, they were sloppily presented, the talked too fast, they rambled, they didn’t shake our hands, they had greasy hair…. they spoke too negatively of previous colleagues or employers, their answers were too vague.

And what do we do? We bitch about it and then say:

“Sorry, the client has decided to move forward with someone else.”

Or even worse, we send them that shitty template…

“Thanks for your time but on this occasion you’ve been unsuccessful.”

If we genuinely give a shit about people like we all say we do, then why would we not do what we can to add value to their search going forward, and share advice that would help drive out the behaviours that we spend so much time moaning about??

I’m not saying give detailed feedback to every CV that lands in your inbox – the numbers are in the hundreds for some jobs, and it’s not the focus of our role.


If you MEET someone, be it by Skype, in person, or anything else where that person has invested their time with you and your annoying paperwork (so you can buy your next bottle of Veuve), the least you can do is try and help them out going forward.

You had enough time to communicate with them as you brought them into the process, why aren’t you doing the same on the way out?


The delivery


Don’t just drop massive truth bombs like a complete dick. But ask if they’re open to it…make them aware if it’s personal so they can brace themselves and deliver it as tactfully as you can.

Make it clear why you’re telling them. The feedback should be being delivered in their interests, not to feed you or your clients’ superiority complex.

Likewise, it can make a disappointing news better when someone realises that they didn’t do anything ‘wrong’ but what they could fine tune going forward to stop them missing out narrowly.

Remember, feedback isn’t always ‘constructive criticism’. Sometimes it’s about sharing the good points to what they did too and allowing them to keep confidence in themselves until their time comes.


“My clients don’t really give me feedback…”


Well they should, and it’s your job to make sure they do. Get their buy in before each interview. Make them realise that insightful feedback is beneficial for them in terms of clarity of what they want or need for their business going forward, it helps you as a recruiter do your job better for them in future, and that them taking the time to deliver feedback also helps their employer brand in the market.

Candidates WANT feedback. They spend so much time applying for jobs and going to interviews and never hearing back what went ‘wrong’ that they get stuck in a circle of shit. They value all the help they can get! They respect people who take the time or have the bottle to be honest with them, and respect breeds trust.

So, whether you work internally, or in agency, the next time you find yourself bitching about someone’s behaviour or interview performance, take some fucking accountability for it. Engage with them in a way that sees you be part of the solution, not a contributor to the problem. And maybe, just maybe in doing so, people might view the whole sector and process with a lot less scepticism.


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